White House, Commerce Officials, Seafood Industry Leaders Ask Congress to Endorse Aquaculture Legislation
Last week Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez convened seafood industry leaders in Washington, D.C., to heighten awareness of offshore aquaculture legislation. The bill, HR2010 in the House and S1609 in the Senate, will give the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration authority to regulate and monitor aquaculture growth into federal waters off U.S. coasts.
On balance, summit panelists overwhelmingly sent a message to Congress that industry is poised and ready to develop a new, ecologically responsible offshore aquaculture industry. The new industry would create jobs and revenue for coastal communities and provide American consumers with more homegrown seafood choices.
“Aquaculture can be a great, new source of innovation, but we need a framework that fosters innovation, investment and prosperity,” Gutierrez said. “As a major growth engine, aquaculture can help preserve the historic ties that fishing communities have to the oceans and create a new and vibrant means for job creation.”
Gutierrez said that while demand for seafood is growing, the United States is working to ensure its wild fisheries remain among the most productive and best managed in the world. But he cautioned that the domestic wild harvest is insufficient to meet new demands, and global competitors have seized the market opportunity of aquaculture while the United States has fallen behind.
A number of economic drivers prompted the Administration to develop and propose the legislation, including a desire to increase domestic production to close the $8 billion seafood trade deficit and to give American seafood farmers and investors greater opportunity to participate in the $70 billion global industry. U.S. aquaculture accounts for only about 1.5 percent of global aquaculture production. Fish and shellfish consumption continues to rise in the United States, causing government officials to raise a warning flag that without this legislation there will be a major shortfall in supply in the next 25 years. New government figures show that seafood consumption in the United States rose in 2006 from 16.2 pounds per person to 16.5 pounds per person.
James L. Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, reiterated President Bush’s commitment to passage of the legislation.
“There is absolutely no reason why this Congress cannot adopt this bipartisan aquaculture legislation,” Connaughton said. “We have engaged the public, held a national dialogue, and now it is time to act to develop regulatory certainty for industry, ensure ecological integrity, and allow the United States to become a beacon for the world in responsible aquaculture development. The stage is set and pre-wired for action.”
Citing statistics from government health experts advising more seafood consumption for health benefits, Connaughton noted that aquaculture ranks on the list of the Administration’s highest legislative priorities because seafood safety and availability is a food security and human welfare issue.
During the summit, seafood industry leaders provided a wealth of information that will help guide Congressional discussion about the legislation. Summit participants agreed that the legislation should provide for the development of an environmentally responsible and sustainable aquaculture industry, while also providing the framework for regulatory certainty that will aid development and growth of new business.
Panelist’s recommendations, speeches, and transcripts from the summit will soon be available on the summit Web site: http://aquaculture2007.noaa.gov.